Tag Archives: Uhuru Kenyatta

#Digital #Security #In #Kenya

When they told us that it would be a digital government, the dynamic duo was not joking. Other than retweeting praises pelted at it by superfans, the Kenyan government has become the king of #hashtags. Nowhere is this more evident than in the security of our nation. Security in Kenya has officially gone digital, people! Hashtag it and they will get the illusion that we are actually doing something about (in)security seems to be the motto.

Last week, the president gave his first State of the Nation address in which he stated that the government had launched two major new security programs. One of these is the Nyumba Kumi Initiative, a community policing program geared towards ensuring that communities participate in their security matters, or #NyumbaKumi. Public participation is important in any society. However, I find it curious that the president considers the initiative a major security program. Getting residents to discuss their security challenges and share these concerns with the police is great. But, does it really count as a security program especially if the police, which happens in most cases, don’t do anything with the information? The police in Kenya, as we have come to realize over the years, are ill-equipped, poorly trained and simply unresponsive. Mr. President, we can talk our heads off about insecurity and obsessively share information with the can’t-be-bothered police but does that really a security program make!?

A cursory look at #NyumbaKumi on Twitter shows that it has become a hashtag space for anything ranging from jokes to finger-pointing to genuine concerns about its practicality and efficacy. The government and its don’t-you-dare-criticize-jubilee-because-they-can-do-no-wrong staunch believers continue to promote #NyumbaKumi as the light at the end of the insecurity tunnel. You know what they say about that light though – it could be an oncoming train.

Not to be stopped there, there is now #UsalamaWatch. This hashtag, according to the official government of Kenya handle for reporting crime @UsalamaWatchKen, is meant to address issues of insecurity through allowing Kenyans to report suspicious activities directly to authorities online. Who monitors its feed and hashtag? Is it monitored 24/7 or just sometimes? What is the response time from initial reporting to police acting, if at all they do? Is there a procedure in place to authenticate the suspicious activities reports? How effective has #UsalamaWatch been? What happens in cases of emergencies? Are people expected to just tweet and cross their fingers that police will be dispatched immediately?

Then there is the Rapid Results Initiative, or #RRI/#RRI14, that the president launched in February. According to the official twitter handle @RRIKenya, the initiative is a method of gaining community input and decision-making on a focused topic in a short amount of time. A vague description if you ask me, but nobody’s is asking me…ha! As per its Facebook page, RRI as a strategy provides an opportunity to re-examine ourselves and to review our approach to security. Also on the FB page, the RRI also seeks to discuss the continued evolving cases of crime in the country and possible ways of eliminating them. The Official handle for the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government in The Office of the President, @InteriorKE (sounds like a home design company but that is neither here nor there), tweeted that the RRI’s thematic areas are crime reduction, streamlining the process of issuance of national identification and travel documents. Hmmm shouldn’t these be handled by different departments? What does crime reduction have to do with streamlining the unnecessarily tedious ID and passport acquisition process? There also seems to be many a discussions about insecurity. What is being done with the information that comes out of these discussions? Are the voices of Kenyans even being heard? Or are they lost behind the hashtag Olympics that the government seems to have going on?

And of course you all know it would not be complete without #SecureKE which, according to @InteriorKE, should be used for immigration, police and issues affecting you which need to be addressed by the government of Kenya. Or basically what all the aforementioned hashtags are supposed to be used for.

Clearly this digital security is not working out for us. In the past month, gunmen attacked a church in Likoni killing four and injuring more than a dozen others. There are claims that police were informed of the impending attack but they didn’t act on that intelligence. This past Sunday a suspected suicide bomber died while assembling a bomb in Nairobi’s Eastleigh area. On Monday three explosions killed six people and injured dozens others. Today, Wednesday, bomb experts detonated an explosive device that had been buried outside a residential area near Eastleigh. Meanwhile the government stays pushing these hashtags like goody goody.

Dear Mr. President, we, as a nation, cannot hashtag our way out of the insecurity. You globetrotting isn’t going to do it either. Practical measures need to be taken to address insecurity.  Have we not learnt anything from Westgate? What will unresponsive, poorly trained and ill-equipped police officers do for us? How will a security force that seems to have no clue what to do with intelligence help us? What will the overzealous arrests of individuals accomplish? Isn’t your government creating a society that lives in fear of the police and neighbors? How are these hashtags going to change anything?



On Kenya and Digital Gone Awry

The president and his deputy branded themselves as the dynamic digital duo during the election campaign period. They promised us many a digital revolutions in the country. Digital government, digital classrooms, digital government offices and digital public services to name but a few. Turns out that digital government simply meant they (or their social media handlers) would tweet links to their speeches and retweet praises from their superfans. Any questions or criticisms directed to them on their social media channels are either ignored or dismissed.

The digital classrooms are yet to become a reality. The dynamic digital duo had promised that all students in class one throughout the country would get laptops. Last month, the tender for the supply of laptops was awarded to Olive Telecommunications Limited, an Indian company. According to the Daily Nation, the Education Cabinet Secretary said that the company quoted the lowest and most advantageous amount which saved the taxpayers Kshs 8 billion. The cabinet secretary said that they were confident that Olive Telecommunications would deliver. They had after all sent a team of government officials to assess where the laptops would be assembled. They had also seen a list of companies that Olive Telecommunications supplied laptops with. The cabinet secretary led us to believe that everything was perfect and the laptop project was finally ready to roll out.

But this is the Kenyan government after all a.k.a scandal central. Just this month, the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board ruled that Olive Telecommunications Pvt Limited did not win the tender fairly. As a result the board cancelled the tender and asked the Ministry of Education to undertake a fresh tender process. The tender required that the company that got it would be an Original Equipment Manufacturer. Turns out that Olive Telecommunications is not. How exactly did the cabinet secretary and his people miss this? They assessed the company supposedly right!? How did this fact escape them!? Also, Olive Telecommunications did not have the financial resources required in order to qualify. Guess the cabinet secretary and his folks were just going to find a way to sweep that fact under the rug. In December, Olive Telecommunications had offered to supply the tender at Kshs 23.2 billion. By the time they got the tender last month it was at Kshs 24.6 billion. A difference of Kshs 1.4 billion. Pray tell Mr. Cabinet Secretary, why the Kshs 1.4 billion increase!? Is it a hidden transaction fee!? A signing bonus!? A good-job-on-duping-the-Kenyans-again golden handshake!?

We can only hope that the next process will not be as flawed as this one. Although, last I checked, the cabinet secretary has said he is not resigning over this. So if it’s the same people handling the process again, we can only wait and see what antics they will pull…sigh.

Seems like digital government offices are also a rumor as shown by the gem below.


Really Lands Ministry!? A tender for TYPEWRITERS!? It’s 2014 and you are looking for typewriters!? Because why!? What can typewriters do that…I don’t know…say computers and tablets can’t!? I suppose they are the ideal portable device huh!? Are you just looking to collect antiques or what!? Are you planning to use them as decorative elements!? Oh wait…I got it…you are trying to create jobs for the youth…manufacturing typewriters right!?

Digital means different things to different people I guess.

Keeping Up With The Kenyans

I was reading the online version of the Daily Nation (one of Kenya’s major newspapers) earlier today. On the home page was the headline “Kenya Foreign Minister praises AU role on Hague cases.” What, you said? Yeah, that’s the same reaction I had. We are still patting the good old AU on the back for their involvement in the Kenya (read Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto) – ICC cases. It turns out that during a summit last year, the AU “resolved that serving Heads of State and their deputies should not be tried at the ICC…” According to the Foreign Minister, “AU decided President Uhuru Kenyatta should not attend trial in The Hague and he has not while Deputy President William Ruto has been granted partial excusal and does not have to attend all the court sessions.” Oh okay. Uhmm…good for you AU. Here is an imaginary standing ovation for achieving something that is neither here nor there in terms of Africa’s development. It’s better than nothing, I guess. Also, here’s an invisible round of applause for making what we, Kenyans, had been told is a personal challenge an AU priority. So much for your shift of focus to “an organization spearheading Africa’s development and integration.”

Speaking of the president acting on other people’s decisions, turns out it’s not just with the AU, it happens in Kenya too. A few weeks ago, the deputy president claimed that the president had been “misadvised in making some appointments that contravened the law.” The appointments in question were those of parastatal heads. One of the controversial appointments was that of Abduba Dida, a 2013 presidential candidate whose leadership capabilities are questionable at best. The other one was that of a certain well-known Kenyan, who shall remain unnamed and who has been in the country’s political landscape since the dinosaur days. Pray tell, how exactly is the president “misadvised” on such matters!? Isn’t he supposed to be well-versed in the lawful procedure of appointing public heads!? When his advisers hand him a list of names, shouldn’t he at least read up on those people to find out if they can deliver!? If they can effectively do the job!? So many questions which will probably go unanswered because…accept and move on…

Meanwhile, this is another headline, “Public schools unprepared for laptops as launch date approaches this term.” The government promised free laptops to all standard one pupils. It’s a great idea. Let’s promote technology and innovation in our country. However, steps need to be taken to ensure that the program is a success. If schools lack basic infrastructure, then what are laptops going to do for them? There are some schools where students learn under a tree. Shouldn’t the focus be on ensuring that they have furnished classrooms!? If you have tried working on your laptop for extended periods while it is on your lap you know how uncomfortable it gets. Do we really want our  children to be subjected to that!? Leap frogging is well and good and very welcome around this parts. However, there are some basic amenities that just have to be in place. Don’t we want to create a conducive environment for the children’s learning and to promote the effective use of their laptops!?

When oh when will we stop putting the cart before the horse!? When oh when will we stop with the band aid solutions!? When oh when will we start putting urgent issues on the priority list!? When oh when will our politicians stop pointing the finger and just take the blame for things they have done!? When oh when!?

Politicians are happy? So are we…or…are we?

Have you seen this infographic? It depicts politicians’ salaries and income inequality in various countries.

Source: http://visualizingimpact.org/
Source: http://visualizingimpact.org/

Kenya is leading the pack…no surprises there. The infographic hit the proverbial nail on the head – complete with the gourd-shaped belly balancing on toothpick legs image. I kid you not, a good number of Kenyan politicians look just like that. But I digress. Our politicians will look for any and every excuse to increase their salaries. “We’ll miss happy hour because we have to debate issues we are borderline clueless about…ergo we need to be compensated for that.” “If we had stayed at our previous jobs, we would have been promoted by now and well on our way to earning X amount of money…ergo we need to be compensated for that.” “We can’t walk in public without being recognized by paparazzi…ergo we need to be compensated for that.” “Our constituents expect us to pelt them with wads of money…ergo we need to be compensated for that.”

O.K maybe I exaggerated…a little bit. They haven’t actually said that…well at least not in public…but the reasons they give for their salary increases are just as ridiculous. I remember one politician saying he needs a pay raise because he left a well paying job. Ala!? Was he forced to quit his job and run for office!? If so, he should simply consult the person(s) who made him make that move. Another one said he needs to pay his father’s hospital bill. Say what!? Because obviously the rest of Kenya is responsible for taking care of politicians’ personal affairs. It’s absolutely insane, I say.

The thing about Kenyan politicians is that they spend so much time fattening their pockets and very little time fulfilling their overly recycled campaign pledges. If you have been a politician since early man’s hunting days, and your constituents still knock on your door for money for school fees, health bills, transport, rent and grocery shopping, then maybe you should do them a favor and quit. Clearly you don’t have and have never had a sustainable plan to ensure that your constituents are empowered and become financially independent.

Politicians are not the only ones to blame. We, Kenyans, have a role to play in this madness. We condone the politicians’ behavior and even enable them by defending some of their tactics. Every election cycle we vote the same people back into office with claims that voting for newer promising candidates is a vote waste. We are reluctant to hold them accountable because doing so is a supposed waste of time. When they fail to fulfill their election promises and instead take actions that are detrimental to our society, we don’t question them…we simply lament in private. As long as our politicians are happy then we laugh…shrug it off…accept and move on. We do so at our own expense. For how long will we accept and move on? Can we really ever move on if we are perpetually stuck in the same cyclical game that politicians play?


African Union – On Turning 50

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Organization of African Unity now known as the African Union. A few days ago, Africa’s leaders met in Addis Ababa to commemorate this auspicious occasion.

What difference has 50 years made? The hope of continent-wide peace and prosperity that our leaders had when the OAU was formed remains just that – hope. The real difference the five decades have made – well, the irony of Africa’s Main Problems meeting to talk about how to solve Africa’s problems. As usual their discussions ignore the pink elephant in the room – their poor leadership or lack thereof – from which a majority of our problems stem from.

In his opening remarks, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister said, “This historic day marks not only a great leap forward in the Pan-Africanist quest for freedom, independence and unity but also the beginning of our collective endeavor for the realization of Africa’s socio-economic emancipation.” (The complete speech is available here)

Freedom and independence – yes, I agree with that. Unity – not so much so –  that remains elusive. Look at Nigeria with Boko Haram and the tensions between Muslims and Christians. Take Kenya, as another example, where every election cycle brings with it renewed ethnic hatred and irrational fear of “the other.” There’s Somalia – do people even know or remember what the root of the conflict there is? Let’s not forget Darfur which has been in a state of humanitarian emergency for close to a decade. South Sudan’s independence carried with it hopes for peace in the region. However, there is still tension and disputes between South Sudan and Sudan with many a threats flying across the border. Then there’s the Congo whose conflict has birthed several rebellions and infighting. Unity – we are still on the struggle train with that one.

Africa’s socio-economic emancipation – yessir- high five for that! It’s about time. One of the reasons why Africa  needs emancipation is because we have been under the West’s economic yoke for such a long time. It hasn’t helped that we constantly receive the foreign assistance excitedly without analyzing the conditionalities attached and  their consequences. Much as African countries are independent, we have  consistently simply aligned with other people’s agendas for us. Sometimes it seems like every country from East to West and in between has an agenda for Africa.  It’s 2013 – a good enough time for Africa to grab the agenda bull by the horns. In this regard, Africa’s leaders could start by ensuring that all the doors and windows to intra-African trade and investment are open. Africans stand to benefit a whole lot from doing business with each other. It is important that communication channels are open and policies are enacted to ease transactions across the board. Africa’s leaders should remember that socio-economic emancipation and continental integration cannot be achieved without the active participation of their citizenry.

While we are on the subject of an active citizenry, why is it that the African Union doesn’t particularly engage the youth? We do after all form a majority of Africa’s population. Instead of having these talk fests among Africa’s leaders why not have conferences that connect Africa’s youth – you know, the social entrepreneurs, the idea generators, the journalists, the writers, the poets and the activists, among others? Shouldn’t the African Union direct its focus to mentoring and funding youth-led initiatives while promoting partnerships among African youth? If we were supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow, then shouldn’t the African Union, in its efforts to promote unity and prosperity, provide such nurturing environments that enable us to realize that potential?

The African Union’s relevance is slipping from its grip. It has come to be viewed by some as a leaders club that meets at a $200 million building that African countries could not even afford to build. The leaders aren’t helping the cause either. The recent meeting they had turned into a campaign to get the ICC to refer both Uhuru Kenyatta’s and William Ruto’s cases to Kenya. When Uhuru Kenyatta was on the campaign trail he repeatedly said that he would cooperate with the ICC. Both men did in fact say that. At a presidential debate, Uhuru Kenyatta said that the ICC case was a personal challenge and now it’s suddenly Africa’s problem? How did this even come to be?

The African Union declared 2013 the year of PanAfricanism and African Renaissance. Only time will tell how committed Africa’s leaders are to this.